Food Business News - May 15, 2018 - 30
U.S.D.A. issues G.M.O.
Stakeholders have 60 days to provide comments, advice
he U.S. Department of Agriculture
on May 3 invited public comment on
the proposed rule to establish the
National Bioengineered Food Disclosure
Standard as mandated by Congress in the
National Bioengineered Food Disclosure
Standard Law of 2016. The standard will
provide a uniform way for food manufacturers to disclose whether a food or its
ingredients were bioengineered while
preventing a patchwork of state or private
labels that may confuse consumers.
"This rulemaking presents several
possible ways to determine what foods will
be covered by the final rule and what the
disclosure will include and look like," said
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
The 60-day comment period on the
rule was opened May 4 with its publication in the Federal Register and will end
July 3. The U.S.D.A. said that due to the
congressionally mandated timeline for
the rulemaking, the comment period
will not be extended.
The U.S.D.A. proposes to define "bioengineering" with respect to food as referring to a food "(A) that contains genetic
material that has been modified through
in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) techniques; and (B) for which
the modification could not otherwise be
obtained through conventional breeding
or found in nature." The U.S.D.A. is seeking guidance on what could be considered
to constitute "bioengineering."
The proposed rule said the terms "bioengineered food" or "bioengineered food
ingredient" should be used in the labeling.
Alternative phrases, such as "genetically
modified" or "genetically engineered," were
considered, but they were not proposed
because the U.S.D.A. said "bioengineering"
adequately describes food products of the
technology that Congress intended to be
within the scope of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.
The National Grain and Feed
Food Business News
Association said as a member of the steering committee of the Safe Affordable Food
Coalition, it believed the proposed rule
represents a significant step toward establishing a final standard that is designed to
give consumers access to more information about the bioengineered content of
the food they purchase, while providing
for national uniformity in bioengineered
food labeling that is essential to providing
consumers with continued access to a safe,
abundant and affordable food supply.
"Thus, the bioengineered food labeling standard is about providing more
access to information to consumers; it
most emphatically is not a food safety
standard," the N.G.F.A. said.
The N.G.F.A. commended the
U.S.D.A. for proposing to grant a tolerance, before labeling is required, for the
inadvertent or technically unavoidable
bioengineered ingredients contained in
food and beverage products.
The U.S.D.A. requested comments on
three alternative methods to determine
thresholds for the amounts of bioengineered substances that may be present in
a food before it is designated a bioengineered food under the proposed rule.
The lack of a realistic threshold for
disclosure would substantially increase
compliance costs, disrupt supply chains
and raise food costs, the N.G.F.A. asserted.
The N.G.F.A. also commended
the U.S.D.A. for proposing to rely upon
customary and reasonable business
records that traditionally are maintained
as being sufficient for documenting
compliance with the rule. The N.G.F.A.
said that this presumably would include
contracts, purchase specifications and
confirmations. Doing otherwise would
create "complex, cumbersome and extremely costly" recordkeeping requirements within the supply chain that may
cause companies to shun the handling
or use of safe, wholesome and nutritious
bioengineered ingredients in their products, the N.G.F.A. said.
The N.G.F.A. said it recognizes some
consumers may want to know additional
information about crops used to produce
food and noted that the U.S.D.A.'s proposal
allows for additional voluntary labeling
statements using the same parameters
proposed for bioengineered products for
which labeling would be required.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief
executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, said, "F.M.I. supported passage of legislation to bring a clear and consistent national standard to provide customers with
information regarding bioengineered
food products. Since Congress forged the
bipartisan compromise in 2016, we have
been working with the U.S.D.A. under
both the Obama and Trump administrations to help move this process forward
in a way that provides consistency and
clarity to customers across our membership of 33,000 retail food stores.
"We also aligned with the entire
value chain to ensure farmers, manufacturers and retailers are working together
to provide accurate, simple and unbiased information to our customers. We
remain focused on consumer education,
which will help our customers have the
tools they need while they shop."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association issued a statement that read, "We
welcome the release of the proposed rule
for the Biotech Disclosure Standard and
will be working with our member companies to review and develop comments on
the draft rule and the U.S.D.A. questions.
Our comments to U.S.D.A. will reflect
the ongoing commitment of our member
companies to providing consumers with
the transparency they need to make
informed product choices." FBN
May 15, 2018